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Daschle: U.S. should be in Afghanistan 'for the long haul'

Daschle answers reporters' questions after the congressional delegation met with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai.
Daschle answers reporters' questions after the congressional delegation met with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai.  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Wednesday the United States needs to maintain a presence in Afghanistan for as long as needed and must not abandon the war-ravaged nation.

The South Dakota Democrat is leading a delegation of U.S. lawmakers on a tour of Central Asia. The group met Wednesday with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai.

"While our effort began as a war against terrorism, it continues now as an effort to rebuild this country ... to restore the quality of life and the kind of government they have fought so hard to obtain now," Daschle said.

"Our success and the success of the Afghan government in large measure will be on their shoulders," he said, referring to the Afghan people.

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But Daschle said the United States needs to be there for as long as it takes to help the country rebuild.

"We strongly believe our country needs to be here for the long haul," he said. The delegation and the Afghan leader talked about various needs for the country, including financial assistance.

"There is a bipartisan effort, a bipartisan willingness to provide assistance. ... We'll consult with the administration ... to try to meet some of that need in the coming days," Daschle said.

The group also talked with Karzai about the need for additional security.

"It is our strong desire to continue a presence here, to recognize that we cannot leave with the job half-done. But we'll determine the role and the degree of presence in the coming weeks and months," Daschle said.

The group came away impressed with Karzai and his leadership and vision for the country, Daschle said, adding that Karzai has brought together different factions and included women. Under the Taliban regime, women were persecuted and not permitted to participate in political and public life.

The delegation also includes Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota; Robert Smith, R-New Hampshire; Richard Durbin, D-Illinois; Mark Dayton, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-California.




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